From the beginning of the museum's history, the Carter Foundation and the Carter family intended this to be a vibrant institution. Not only would the collection grow, but the mission would evolve as well. Instead of serving only as a Remington and Russell repository, the museum would expand to encompass works by other artists who depicted the American West. Within a few years this vision was modified to include American art as a whole, for the museum’s first director, Mitchell A. Wilder, believed that the history of American art could be interpreted as the history of artists working on successive frontiers. As a result, the holdings grew in fascinating ways. Wilder and the museum’s trustees realized at the outset that it was nearly impossible to assemble a comprehensive collection of America art at such a late date, so they opted for quality over quantity. One trustee, RenÃ© d’Harnoncourt, explained that the desired works should represent “stepping stones” in the history of American art, major pieces that not only revealed the high points of an artist’s career but that also summarized the essential elements of a broader artistic style. Acquisitions were not limited to paintings and sculptures. Watercolors, drawings, prints, photographs, and books have been added yearly and now the number of objects in our collection number well over a quarter-million works of art. The photography collection itself has grown to become one of the nation’s most important collections.
Dorothea Lange (1895–1965), Charles M. Russell's hand, gelatin silver print, ca. 1924-1926.
This is the first photograph acquired for the museum’s collection
The Amon Carter Museum designed by Philip Johnson (1906–2005), brought to the city of Fort Worth and to the state of Texas a new order of museum architecture. This building was to be a work of art to house art, a relationship that the critic Douglas Davis referred to as the union of the container and the contained. With the museum Johnson made four significant design statements: the axial relationship of the museum to the city, the great processional entrance way featuring the shellstone-clad portico, and the integration of the landscape forms with the building.
The museum was fortunate to have Philip Johnson design and oversee all three iterations of building and grounds. The original 1961 plan, the addition in 1977, and the current museum all were the “project of a lifetime” for this renowned architect.
When you visit the Amon Carter take a moment and look east to take in the view then travel through Mr. Johnson’s “goesinda” (one of Mr. Johnson’s favorite words), the center of the grand entrance to a grand collection of American art.
If you've visited or driven by the museum in the past week, you might have noticed a flurry of activity on both the Lancaster and Camp Bowie sides of the building. We officially changed our name to 'Amon Carter Museum of American Art' a few months back, and now the building's unique bronze signs have also been updated with our new name in celebration of our 50th Anniversary.
Here is a shot of the handsome new signage being installed late last week.
For the Presidents Day installment of our Analog to Digital series, we have a 1930 photograph by Berenice Abbott showing the famous statue of George Washington in New York's Union Square. This photo is interesting not only because it shows the statue off its distinctive base, but also because the statue was created by American sculptor Henry Kirke Brown. The Amon Carter has several Henry Kirke Brown sculptures in the collection, two of which (The Choosing of the Arrow and Filatrice) are currently on view in our painting and sculpture galleries.
Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), Washington in Union Square, 1930, Gelatin silver print, Gift of P/K Associates, New York, New York, © Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.
The Amon Carter has a renowned collection of works by Frederic Remington and Charles Russell. This was Mr. Carter’s legacy he wanted to share with the citizens of Fort Worth. He developed an interest in the work by these two artists through his friendship with Will Rogers. In 1935, shortly before Roger’s tragic death in a plane accident, Carter made his first documented art purchases: a lively Remington oil painting His First Lesson (1903), and a group of nine Russell watercolors.
Frederic Remington (1861–1909), His First Lesson, oil on canvas, 1903
Mr. Carter's collection is on view at the museum in our Remington-Russell Study Center, generously funded through a grant by the Justin Foundation. There you will see paintings, works on paper, and sculptures with fascinating insights and information on the art and the artists. You can also view all the works by these two artists in the Amon Carter’s newest online collection guide. Be sure to check out the animated video describing the lost-wax bronze casting method that both artists use to create sculptures. You can also view videos by curator Rick Stewart that discuss three important pieces from the permanent collection.
For our continuing Analog to Digital series, a completely unique photograph to celebrate Valentine's Day. Cataloged under our IMLS-funded digitization initiative, this is actually a black-and-white photograph tinted with watercolors. And those little hearts? Foil stickers that you tend to see at this time of year.
Rita DeWitt (b. 1948), Praying Hands Pursuing Flock of Hearts, Gelatin silver print with applied foil labels and watercolor, Gift of the Society for Photographic Education, South Central Region, © 1978 Rita DeWitt
Yesterday we put the finishing touches on Nature Bound: Illustrated Botanical Books, including applying the vinyl title wall and well as tending to a myriad of other details. This morning the exhibition opened to the public, a few days ahead of its official opening date. Below you see one of the preparators working through the "sticky" process of placing the vinyl on the exhibition's title wall. FYI, I learned that this is the same vinyl that is used for car detailing. The next view shows a very special object in the exhibition: Romeyn Hough's American Woods. Hough spent the good part of his life on this project: he personally collected wood from over 400 species of trees growing in the U.S. to include in what finally came to be fourteen volumes of wood samples and accompanying information. We're showing eight of the wood sample cards in a custom-designed, backlit case, allowing a viewer to study the intricate pattern and color of the wood. The last image shows a section of the finished exhibition installation. All-in-all, I'm pleased. I think visitors will be surprised to find out that between the library collections at the Amon Carter and the Botanic Research Institute of Texas, we have in the cultural district some of the great achievements of botanic illustration.
Today we nearly finished the installation of Nature Bound: Illustrated Botanical Books. Each object on display has a number that connects it with the related object information and discussion that is printed on the large panels that float above each case. Below you see one of the museum's preparators organizing a "deck" of these numbers. Below that you see the installation of the cut vinyl that makes up the title wall. We're getting close!
For our second installment of Analog to Digital, a new blog series documenting photographs from the Amon Carter's IMLS-funded digitization initiative, we have some very early road trip photos dating back to 1914. These images come from a tourist's photo album called Motor Trip to Mesa Verde and show not only the recently-created national park, but also the perils of driving on unpaved roads.
Unknown artist, [Man shoveling mud to free car], gelatin silver print, 1914
Unknown artist, [Houses destroyed by mudslide], gelatin silver print, 1914
Unknown artist, [People with large dog in car], gelatin silver print, 1914
Unknown artist, [Two cars parking in front of cliff dwellings], gelatin silver print, 1914